Helen Martin: Edinburgh's now a fairground ride that we can't get off

ALMOST 70 per cent of businesses in the city of Edinburgh back the plan for a tourist tax. Unsurprisingly, support stands at only 50 per cent from those in the hospitality and tourism sector.

Do people from China really want to come to Edinburgh to celebrate their New Year?
Do people from China really want to come to Edinburgh to celebrate their New Year?

Council tax-payers not only feel the council puts tourists first before locals’ needs, but also want a tourist tax, with the revenue being spent on essential services – and definitely not devoted to beefing up tourism even more.

Now that we know 88 per cent of high season tourists and 80 per cent of low season visitors would also be happy with a £2-a-night tax, there is no reason for the Scottish Government to block the idea.

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Edinburgh has always been a wonderful tourist destination – even back in the fifties. Everyone came to see the Castle, the Palace, the One O’clock Gun, Princes Street Gardens and its pigeon-feeding sessions, the history of the Capital, its architecture and its scenery, plus Porty beach. As the capital city, it also show-cased sheer Scottishness. Tourism is not a new industry – though it has grown monstrously for such a small place.

Do people from China really want to come to Edinburgh to celebrate their New Year?

We still need, want and welcome tourists. But the sector cannot keep growing. It’s already overwhelming and seriously limiting locals who live and work here and, by the way, who pay council tax.

The problem is not tourism but the way the council manages it, or fails to do so. More local people should benefit from its revenue, rather than just council coffers, Underbelly and the hospitality sector.

Why should the bulk of Christmas Markets stalls, especially those in the primary Gardens location, be run by foreign traders? The answer is that they pay thousands for the chance to sell us over-priced European wooden carvings, German Bratwurst Frankfurters and mulled wine, Scandinavian knitted hats, ornaments, sweets etc.

A step back from that central position, in West George Street, is a shorter span Scottish Market, with traders from across the country selling their versions of the same things . . . food, drink, crafts, woodwork, and also paying through the nose for stall rental.

How about another Christmas Market exclusively for Edinburgh and Lothian traders in food, drink, arts and crafts and gifts, particularly for small businesses, start-ups, independent shops or creators – but with no rental charges and in a prime Gardens site?

In February Edinburgh is hosting a two-week Chinese New Year Festival to attract even more Chinese tourists (assuming they prefer to spend their New Year here rather than in China where the festivities authentically belong).

How will locals (apart from the hospitality sector) financially benefit from that? Please God, we don’t have to tolerate Chinese fireworks!

We are becoming an international, fairground ride, characterless theme park resort of no benefit to natives. Where has the “Scottishness” gone and isn’t that what tourists come here to experience rather than what they’re used to at home? A St Andrew’s Festival, a Robert Burns Festival, a Scotch Whisky Festival, all promoting local businesses and culture and offering free stalls to locals selling their products? That would be Scottish.

Locals are not anti-tourist. But Edinburgh council-tax payers should be the council’s priority over visitors from China or anywhere else. And local businesses and residents are owed the right to benefit directly from the intrusive tourism industry – or demand its damaging impact on their lives is reduced.

I’m cheesed off with the food police

FINALLY this summer, Humphrey Errington and his cheese firm were cleared of breaching food safety laws in court following years of vicious, unjustified pursuit by Food Standards Scotland who ignored all evidence proving they were wrong.

Now they are trying to kill off the restaurant trade by reducing portion sizes and dictating calories of every dish should be printed on menus (doubt tourists would love that!). And what would happen to a diner ordering a double portion – a jail sentence?

Who do the FSS members think they are, and how stupid do they rate the public? We are all bright enough to find them untrustworthy after their Errington fiasco.

Everyone knows what is fattening and what is not. Meals out are a treat. What would the FSS try to impose on the average Christmas Day calorie intake?

Actually, based on their online photos, not all FSS board members look slim – though perhaps they’re just a bit “bloated” by a sense of power.

The fraudsters are always one step ahead

DESPITE failing to correctly answer bank security questions, a criminal highjacked an RBS account and stole thousands of pounds.

It took a BBC Watchdog investigation before the bank realised and admitted the fraudster had successfully conned them, forcing them to repay their innocent customer.

That’s the issue with modern banking and other businesses . . . criminals are often more clever than companies, keeping ahead of the security game.

It takes them less time to work out a con than it does to upgrade a whole company system. Car thieves now know how to capture a key fob signal from outside a house! They’ll have stolen thousands of cars before a new fob system is introduced.

Climate change is truff luck

CLIMATE change can possibly lead to Scotland becoming a leader in truffle production currently worth hundreds of millions in Europe, according to Stirling University. Perhaps that explains Mrs May’s “precious” Union.